Flaws in NH School District Background Check Policy

When one of two background checks are used in a hiring procedure, which one do you go with? For school districts, screening applicants shouldn’t be a question of either-or. Rather, the district should be doing all it can to have the best and most-qualified candidates on staff. So, why does Franklin, New Hampshire, have two options for background checks?

According to a recent news story from The Concord Monitor, a business administrator in the school district was fired recently after a background check revealed that she has a history of theft. The worker, although not a teacher, managed funds for the school district, and the crime involved stealing $64,000 over four years.

Background check procedures vary with each town, but the state gives school districts two options to run background checks: a basic screening that only checks felonies on a “prohibited” list (murder, rape, and crimes against children) and a comprehensive investigation that lists all types of felonies of which a candidate could have been convicted. The cost is identical for both, and candidates need to get fingerprints, which are then checked against a national criminal database.

The article, additionally, mentions a weakness in Franklin’s hiring policy: not asking candidates if they have ever been convicted of a crime. Although other school districts ask this question, Franklin doesn’t give candidates for teaching and administrative positions the space to discuss their criminal past.

As this instance shows, an employer should always be careful with background checks. A candidate, such as this business administrator in Franklin, could have a criminal history directly related to his or her job. While criminals shouldn’t be barred from hiring, employers should consider those with misdemeanors and felonies in their pasts on a case-by-case basis. In this case, a more thorough background check should have been conducted on the business administrative candidate and should have included a history of all felonies – especially those involving money and funds. If this incident is any indication, New Hampshire should revise its background check policy.